In the mid ’90s, the MFJ Task Force, the combination of seven (7) Regional Bell Owned Companies (RBOCs), came together attempting to impact legislation that would allow them to enter into the long-distance markets, cable industry, manufacture telecommunications equipment, and alarm industry. The company determined a need to increase supporters of its efforts. Focus Communications developed and implemented a grassroots campaign to provide the RBOCs a minority support voice on Capitol Hill to speak on behalf of their issues.
We used three strategic tactics to enlist grassroots organizations to mobilize on behalf of the RBOCs: Community Relations, Public Policy, and Event Planning.
The agency solicited the local affiliates of the National Urban League located in the Congressional districts of the Energy and Commerce committee members of the House and Senate. Benefit analysis meetings with the presidents and CEOs of the respective affiliate chapters were held on how their action or inaction on telecommunication legislation would affect their affiliate members.
Understanding the Urban League affiliates' history and involvement in public policy, Focus worked with the chapters to increase their understanding of public policy issues and the effects on their memberships. Their increased understanding of the telecommunication legislation enabled these affiliates to educate elected officials on their position in a manner that proved to be very successful.
To maximize the grassroots effort the agency organized and implemented several "Hill Days" bringing Urban League affiliates from around the country to Washington to meet their respective Congressional representatives and to target members to impact telecommunication legislation. While in Washington, the agency also conducted additional workshops on how to effectively communicate with congressional members and senior staff for League representatives.
Agency is credited with launching National Urban League technology initiative. Telecommunications legislation passed by an overwhelming margin in Congress.
Frito-Lay, Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of snack foods, determined a need to increase brand loyalty and corporate visibility among minority consumers. Over an extended period, Focus Communications developed and implemented a comprehensive communications strategy that included special events and public relations programs and projects designed to influence the minority segment of the Frito-Lay market, thus elevating the company to unprecedented heights and respectability.
Focus created the Frito-Lay / National Council of Negro Women, "Salute To Black Women Who Make It Happen" achievement awards program. This public relations program became a cornerstone biennial event for Frito-Lay for nearly 10 years. The awards ceremonies in Washington, D.C., attracted more than 1,000 personalities and dignitaries each program year.
Our efforts resulted in national publicity and awareness for Frito-Lay in the form of a one-hour cable television program on Black Entertainment Television (BET), a special White House reception hosted by former First Lady Barbara Bush for the award finalists, and a Communications Excellence To Black Audience (CEBA) Awards of Merit.
Nominations from private and public sectors in more than 30 states were submitted in response to brochures, entry forms, a newsletter and advertisements developed and distributed by Focus.
A consumer promotion cause-related campaign was created by the agency to increase sales of specific Frito-Lay brands and heighten consumer and public awareness of the event. Discount coupon books were provided, encouraging supporters of NCNW to redeem the coupons for a free four-color commemorative poster of prominent Black women and to help raise funds for NCNW.
To provide maximum visibility, Focus executed an intensive national media relations campaign that generated over 250 stories and articles in publications including the Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Los Angeles Herald-Dispatch, Chicago Sun-Times, The Dallas Morning News, Good Housekeeping and Essence Magazines. We were also successful in securing appearances on radio and television talk shows.
Focus Communications has been instrumental in aiding the company to earn its reputation as a staunch advocate and supporter of Minority Business. The agency planned, developed, coordinated and executed multiple cities Minority Business Development Trade Fairs to increase Frito-Lay's purchasing efforts in select markets. Attendance exceeded expectations and resulted in widespread publicity, including a Knight Ridder national wire story, coverage in The Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times and Atlanta Journal.
Because of its commitment to minority business development, Frito-Lay received numerous awards, including being named Advocate of the Year by the White House Commission of Private Sector Initiatives, and Corporation of the Year by the Dallas Regional Minority Purchasing Council and the Atlanta Business League. Focus was also able to arrange for Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley to present a proclamation to Frito-Lay for the company's efforts in minority business development.
"If You Share Our Commitment To Quality, You Could Have A Share of Our Business," theme developed by the agency was used as the general theme for company’s overall purchasing program for years.
To increase name awareness and usage of Frito-Lay products among Black and Hispanic consumers, Focus Communications developed a weekly syndicated recipe column that ran in 75 Black and Hispanic newspapers across the United States. Titled, "Quick and Easy Meals" and "Recectas Rapidas Para La Familia," the recipes ran for years and showed consumers how to use Frito-Lay products when preparing family meals. A toll-free telephone number was provided with each recipe. The recipe columns provided Frito-Lay with "free advertising" and increased its market exposure in two very important market segments.
Focus Communications developed the "Celebration of Achievement" education kit which served as a valuable instructional tool for teachers in teaching Black history. Containing little-known facts about the many contributions of Black Americans, the information was distributed to school districts in the top ten Black markets across the United States.
Frito-Lay's Minority Business Development program is now recognized as a national model, and its support of Black women has been applauded. Both of these groups are now an important segment of the company's consumer base.
Central State University, a predominantly black, state-supported university in Ohio, had established a goal to increase its student enrollment by 25 percent within one year. Five months before the start of the fall academic school year (a traditionally slow period for student recruitment) the agency developed and implemented a strategic marketing plan designed to provide Central State University with access to potential students.
The agency contacted churches and other community groups in Ohio's four major African American markets: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus to set up recruitment fairs on successive weekends in the summer.
Five strategic communication tools were used: Community Relations, Advertising, Media Relations, Direct Mail, and Telemarketing.
Focus sought and obtained permission from religious organizations in the abovementioned key Ohio cities (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus) to host recruitment fairs at their respective churches. Members of the university's alumni association and civic organizations joined to circulate flyers and promote these recruitment fairs at their respective churches.
To expand the university’s base and to support the recruitment fairs, the agency created, developed, and executed a first-ever radio and print advertising campaign under the theme: "Discover Central State University... where dreams become reality for the university." An eight-week schedule of ads was concentrated before the recruitment fairs and continued until the start of the school year.
Media relations consisted of leveraged advertising dollars with newspaper articles, editorials, public service announcements, and interviews on public affairs shows. The newspaper articles featured recent Central State University graduates launching great careers. . Arthur E. Thomas, then president of the university, wrote print editorials and appeared on radio public affairs shows broadcast interviews with university officials, students, and alumni.
As part of its strategy to re-position Central State University as a first-class institution of higher learning, the agency produced a direct mail and general admissions brochure for prospective students and their parents. Each piece depicted a high technology and quality of lifestyle theme that became the focal point of the university's marketing strategy.
Focus Communications identified and recommended that the University hire a telemarketing manager to coordinate that critical function. The university's telemarketing staff played a key role in locating prospective students at high schools, churches and community centers, and tracking them through the final admissions process.
At the end of a four-month period, Central State University officials reported a 20 percent increase in student enrollment.
Following the recruitment drive, the agency targeted several professional and civic organizations that agreed to assist the University with student recruitment. It marked the first time that organizations including the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and the National Council of Negro Women involved themselves in such ventures.
Crisis communication is a cornerstone of agency services. As a leading supplier of hair care products to Black consumers, Revlon had come under intense public scrutiny and suffered a boycott of its products due to statements made by a Revlon division president about the status of the Black hair care market in the late 80s. Focus Communications recommended and developed a strategy to reverse the flow of negative publicity and neutralize the boycott. Revlon was positioned as a socially responsible and concerned company marketing to black consumers. A crucial element of the strategy was the targeting of major Black women's organizations that could also provide a strong and lasting consumer base for Revlon.
Focus also assisted Revlon in strengthening its relationships with civic and professional organizations. As a result, Revlon has provided both financial and corporate support to such national organizations as the United Negro College Fund, National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, Dance Theater of Harlem, and Harlem Boys Choir, among others.
Major events supported by Revlon included the 75th Anniversary Celebration of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Affiliate Assembly of the National Council of Negro Women, an All-Star Tribute to Dorothy I. Height, president emeritus of NCNW, and "How to Make Money in the Beauty Salon Business" seminars.
To enhance Revlon's relationship with the Black media and consumers, Focus strategically organized and coordinated a meeting between key Revlon senior officers and the president and executive committee members of the National Newspapers Publishers Association, which represents over 200 Black-owned publications throughout the United States. The agency also positioned Revlon as the lead sponsor of a tribute to Dr. Dorothy I. Height. Those in attendance included Former First Lady Barbara Bush, Bill Cosby, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Diana Ross, Ruby Dee, Dr. Benjamin Hooks, John Jacobs, Earl Graves, and the late Arthur Ashe, among others. The agency conceived, coordinated, and produced the event.
Black newspapers ran news articles and releases of Revlon's activities and sponsorship, which greatly improved the company's image and relationship with Black consumers and communities, including those who once supported the boycott.
The City of Dallas, Texas, asked Focus Communications to develop and implement a public relations strategy to convince the city's African-American voters to approve a large bond issue. The agency created and executed a plan that included media relations, advertising, and community relations.
Focus developed media kits of information targeted to African-American media. Each kit contained news releases and backgrounders explaining and promoting the benefits of the scheduled bond election to the African-American community. The kit also contained endorsements of the bond proposal from key African-American community and business leaders and elected officials. As a result, editors and publishers unanimously endorsed the bond election.
A series of newspaper advertisements were developed and placed. The ads described how bond election funds would be spent in the African-American communities, i.e., for the improvement and expansion of select organizations and to establish flood plans in targeted communities. Focus also developed and placed radio advertisements featuring city officials and leaders supporting the bond issue.
To establish a base of support within the African-American community, agency representatives met with key African-American civic and professional organizations and was successful in obtaining endorsements from these groups, as well as from African-American elected officials and precinct chairpersons. Among the groups endorsing the bond election were the Black Women Attorneys, J.L. Turner Legal Society, Progressive Voters League, Dallas Urban League, and the NAACP.
All 11 bond propositions passed by a wide margin in every African-American precinct, and achieved unprecedented African-American community involvement in a political campaign.
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